We strongly condemn the racist and hate-filled ideologies that sparked the violent and deadly Charlottesville, Va., demonstrations and counter-protests last weekend.
We just as strongly urge Americans of all political leanings to put aside partisan differences and seek ways to stand together in unity, so that incidents like the one in Charlottesville do not happen again.
There is no place in our beloved country for a philosophy based on “supremacy” of one or another race, creed or origin, or for celebrating an era in our history that accepted the enslavement of human beings.
There is no place whatsoever for the evil of Nazism, for neo-Nazism, or the glorification of a regime that to this day still personifies the worst of humanity.
The weekend demonstrations in Charlottesville were planned months in advance by white nationalist and so-called “alt-right” groups in protest over a plan by local officials to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a public park.
Lee, of course, led the Confederate Army in Northern Virginia during the Civil War, an epic struggle that left Southern slave-holding states of the confederacy defeated and preserved the union under President Lincoln.
The Civil War, fought more than 150 years ago, led to the emancipation of black slaves and the beginning of a long struggle by blacks for full civil rights and equality under our laws.
The rise of Nazism in Adolf Hitler’s Germany during the 1930s is a more modern conflagration, bringing about the Holocaust in which some 6 million European Jews were exterminated along with many others and leading directly to World War II, which remains the deadliest conflict in human history.
It boggles the mind that the sentiments and beliefs of those dark days are again taking hold, as was demonstrated in Charlottesville.
For Catholics, it’s even more troubling that the Charlottesville unrest took place as the Church was preparing to observe the Aug. 14 feast day of St. Maximilian Kolbe, the Conventual Franciscan friar who volunteered to die in place of a stranger in the German death camp at Auschwitz.
The incidents in Charlottesville left three people dead, including two police officers whose helicopter crashed while they were responding to the scene, and a 32-year-old counter-protester, Heather Heyer, who was mowed down by a car driven into the crowd by 20-year-old Nazi sympathizer James Alex Fields Jr.
Still, Ms. Heyer’s heartbroken father, Mark Heyer, said he forgives his daughter’s attacker, inspired by “what the Lord said on the cross.” Mr. Heyer’s message to the American people: Stop the hate.
Those were the thoughts as well of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Fla., chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, who called all people of goodwill to join in prayer and unity in response to the violence.
In a statement Sunday, Aug. 13, they said their “prayer turns today, on the Lord’s day, to the people of Charlottesville who offered a counter example to the hate marching in the streets.”
“We stand against the evil of racism, white supremacy and neo-Nazism. We stand with our sisters and brothers united in the sacrifice of Jesus, by which love’s victory over every form of evil is assured,” they said.
Maybe the events of the weekend will be a turning point for Americans, as they look deep within themselves to expose and root out any darkness. That’s our sincere hope, and our most fervent prayer.